An SMEs simple guide to… YouTube

Each month social media expert Richard Chapman, founder of Richard Chapman Studio, takes a look at a different social media platform and examines how you can get the best out of it for your business. This month he looks at everyone’s favourite video sharing website, YouTube.


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The popular video-sharing platform recently celebrated its 10th birthday.

‘The Incredibles’ is one of my favourite films. You could even tell watching it how much fun the film-makers were having. The combination of a cracking story and the smart style of animation used makes me think of a weird tautology: mid-century digital. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour this weekend. The reason I mention it in the context of YouTube and business social media is because it appeals to everyone. It’s the classic example of a movie parents love as much as their children.

Taken to the next stage, if you assume that your typical target customer is a decision making parent, there’s a nigh-on certainty they’ve spent a great deal of their time watching a lot of children’s animation in the past few years – just hum a few bars of ‘Everything Is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie as a straw poll if you aren’t sure. My logic is that if this key business audience is already tuned into simple stories told with witty video, why not sell your business that way?

Making a film about your business can range from amateur (shot on a mobile phone) to sophisticated (hiring a corporate film-making agency), but either of these approaches, or the manifold options inbetween, will bring your company to life. And the best part? When you’re finished making it, hosting it online and sharing it with the world won’t cost you a thing.

Where did YouTube come from?

A classic ‘we made it in our garage’ tech fable, YouTube is that uniquely wonderful thing: a good idea nobody had thought of before. It also, like many other good ideas on the internet, does one thing really well and has never lost sight of that. Since the first YouTube video, ‘Me at the zoo’, was uploaded to the site in 2005, the simple, endlessly appealing, concept of being able to upload and share your own video footage has remained incredibly successful.

YouTube began as a simple demo site based on Flash video and was launched to the public in November 2005. Within six months, 65,000 videos were being uploaded each day – and they were embeddable in any website with a simple string of code that the site supplied. That’s a tiny fraction of today’s hundreds of thousands of uploads every 24 hours, but sensational for a new concept in a world only just getting used to broadband internet. Within a year, Google had purchased the site and it was said that by 2007, YouTube had consumed as much bandwidth as the entire internet had in 2000. Today it is ubiquitous and rarely bettered as a piece of easy-to-use technology.

What sort of business is it useful for and how should I use it?

I’d encourage businesses of all sizes to use YouTube. The ‘scare-factor’ and huge cost of video is increasingly a thing of the past given most of us carry around pretty sophisticated HD recorders in our pockets. Telling a simple story about your business with a video doesn’t even have too many rules in my opinion: a simple company update told face-to-face in your workplace feels authentic not amateurish. This said, it’s worth taking your time, rehearsing a little, and having a script or outline of what you want to say. A persuasive end result will suggest you’ve taken the trouble to do things in a different way.

My other suggestion would be to stick to a specific topic or news update in each film rather than trying to cover everything your business does at once. Shooting these shorts (and by short, I mean they don’t need to be longer than 90 seconds) could work as a post on your company blog or news webpage, be used in a presentation, and be picked up in website searches. With Google’s ownership of YouTube, you’ve covered a lot of bases in a half-day collaboration with a colleague, writing, recording and cutting your video.

It would be easy to offer advice to ‘pretty companies’ like florists or restaurants, but it’s my feeling that businesses such as light industrial, manufacturing or those that mend or repair equipment or machinery are ideally suited to video. Explaining the high quality of workmanship and detail of build is always going to look far more interesting when you see it actually happening, and a pricey photo shoot could be out of date in six months. Making a simple video of, in particular, a repetitive detailed motion and explaining what you’re doing will make your point in moments and could make the difference in showcasing your expertise.

Another example is closer to home: one of the mainstays of my business has always been making information graphics in a report look good. Graphs, flowcharts, tables and timelines are supposed to make the detail more engaging, so if they end up looking plain or drag a layout down rather than increase understanding, the job is a failure. One of our recent clients was a start-up who asked us to animate some illustrations we’d done and tell the story of his new business. Intrigued, we worked with a professional filmmaker, and it turned out to be a great way of creating video without actually filming anything, just using simple animation. With a sound business idea, and a great script, guess what? – It worked like a charm!

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